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Whether you want to impress the object of your affection or treat yourself to something special, Vancouver has an amazing collection of chocolate shops with incredible, surprising and delicious treats
Vancouver has an incredible selection of unique chocolate shops and they’re all gearing up for Valentine’s Day
Vancouver’s legendary culinary culture extends to some of its luscious chocolate shops, with their inventive creations, local ingredients, seasonal inspiration and beautiful, innovative designs.
Another marvelous thing about Vancouver’s best chocolate shops is their uniqueness. Every shop I visited approached this coveted ingredient in a slightly different way.
Read on for a roundup of the city’s best spots to buy your sweetie mouthwatering chocolates, or to indulge in a little decadence for yourself.
Beta5’s love-hued Valentine’s Day chocolates, left, come in six different flavours (cognac, ginger, tobacco, cinnamon, port and 85% dark) and two different box sizes. Tins of their Valentine’s Day pebble mix are stuffed with chocolate-covered pistachios and strawberries, and house-candied citron with crystallized rose petals (Image: Beta5)
I heard newly opened Beta5’s co-owner Adam Chandler speak at last year’s food-themed Pecha Kucha night and had been looking forward to trying their chocolates ever since. I was not disappointed – instead I was wowed as I bit into the beautiful beer-and-chocolate-totally-works oatmeal stout chocolate (nine for $20) made with Rogue Brewing’s Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout. And I loved the surprisingly wonderful tobacco chocolate and the chocolate-dipped pistachios and freeze-dried strawberries in the Valentine’s Day pebble mix ($17 per tin).
The six different hand-dipped, hand-painted Valentine’s Day chocolates (cognac, ginger, tobacco, cinnamon, port and 85% dark) come in simple, modern, masculine packaging and are $25 for 12 or $45 for 24.
Beta 5, which refers to the cocoa butter’s crystal structure that gives the chocolate its shine and snap, also offers Chocolate Union Memberships (starting at $35 per month), the gift that keeps on giving. Each month Chocolate Union members receive a seasonally inspired selection of members-only treats including chocolates, pebble mixes, caramels and more. February’s theme is “Escape the Rain: a tropical getaway” and includes coconut-lime chocolates, banana-rum caramels, macadamia nut pebbles and Hawaiian candied ginger.
Chandler says they make limited supplies and small batches of their ever-changing lineup of chocolates in order to give customers the chance to really experience fresh chocolate.
413 Industrial Avenue, 604-669-3336
Clockwise from top left: solid heart made with house-made raspberry leather, crispy cookie wafer and dark chocolate, $5.95; four-inch milk chocolate letters, $3.95; chocolate lace heart filled with a selection of 13 chocolates and truffles, $38.95; and gift box with six strawberry and champagne seduction chocolates, $8.95 (Image: Chocolate Arts)
The name says it all. Many of the chocolates you’ll find at Chocolate Arts are as much about design as they are about flavour.
From elaborate one-off creations like the massive heart and arrow-themed sculpture and one of only a few chocolate cupid sculptures available for Valentine’s Day, to the stunning west coast First Nations-themed chocolates designed by Robert Davidson, Chocolate Arts’ treats marry the artistry of form and fillings (they use raw chocolate from Belgium and France, along with many locally grown and organic ingredients for their house-made fillings).
They produce lower runs of individual products and lots of variety, with different options for every price range. Individual chocolates are priced by weight, but start at around $1.25. They have three special chocolates for Valentine’s Day: the strawberry and champagne seduction with house-made strawberry jelly and champagne ganache in a dark chocolate shell, $1.25; Juliette with organic apricot compote and apricot milk chocolate ganache in a dark chocolate shell, $2.25; and the passion fruit truffle heart with a white chocolate passion fruit ganache in a dark chocolate shell, $1.50.
Splurge on the Valentine’s celebration box, $50, with a crispy raspberry heart surrounded by a selection of 26 chocolates and truffles, or take the economic route with the small silver heart, $14.95, filled with a selection of six chocolates and truffles.
1620 West 3rd Avenue, 604-739-0475
The 12-piece heart-shaped chocolate box filled with seasonal truffles is $36 (Image: CocoaNymph)
CocoaNymph’s chocolates never fail to make me swoon and owner and chocolatier Rachel Sawatzky has dreamed up four new truffles and a brandied-cherry chocolate especially for Valentine’s Day.
“I love the cinnamon truffle,” says Sawatzky. “It’s a whipped butter ganache – like a chocolate cinnamon mouse in a dark chocolate shell. It is simply amazing!” I love Desire, the cinnamon truffle, too, but it was Blush, a taste bud-arousing dark chocolate and rose ganache coated with milk chocolate, that stole my heart.
Luscious, a cherry liqueur ganache coated with dark chocolate, and Mischief, a champagne ganache coated with milk chocolate, were pretty darn fantastic too, as was the local, organic brandied cherry in a heart-shaped shell.
In addition to the seasonal items, there are a wide range of adorably named regulars like the gin, hibiscus and black pepper Jimi, the dairy-free coconut milk and dark chocolate No Moo, and the chai-infused Lucy in the Chai. Chocolates are $1.95 each and $14.50 for eight, or get a heart-shaped box made from chocolate filled with truffles, $36 for 12 pieces, or a red velvet heart-shaped box with 16 pieces for $36 or 32 pieces for $65.
3739 West 10th Avenue, 604-222-4477
Mink’s woven chocolate heart filled with bonbons and packaged in a ribboned hatbox, $46, and a selection of some of the over 30 ganache-filled chocolate bars you can buy separately, $6.25, or in the Oh Baby! romance gift box, $42 for 6 (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)
When I stopped by the Mink Chocolates cafe to check out their treats, president Marc Lieberman explained that whereas most chocolate shops produce a wide range of bonbons, Mink has created a line of over 30 beautifully packaged ganache-filled chocolate bars. Each square of chocolate in the delicious range – like the burnt caramel, fleur de sel and rosemary Mermaid’s Choice – is a gooey, ganachey treat.
But that’s not to say that their selection of bonbons isn’t special too. What they lack in variety, they make up for in “extremely cute and very, very tasty”, with a line of nine bonbons beautifully decorated with motifs that hint at their flavours, like the flip flops that suggest a coconut ganache filling.
For Valentine’s, Mink is offering a few different gift boxes, from a large woven chocolate heart filled with nine bonbons that comes in a ribboned hatbox for $46 to the Valentine’s collection box that comes with a mix of 16 bonbons including the nine regularly featured chocolates in addition to special edition love-themed chocolates (like the hazelnut praline lips) for $29.
Or you can opt for the Oh Baby! romance gift box for $42 that comes with your choice of six ganache-filled chocolate bars.
863 West Hastings Street, 604-633-2451
Thierry’s large gift box, $33.95, filled with a boozy, fruity and nutty selection of delectable ganache, praline and marzipan chocolates (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)
Thierry Busset, the pastry chef former colleague Gordon Ramsay calls one of the best in the world, was busy working away in the climate-controlled kitchen of Thierry, his gorgeous chocolaterie, patisserie and cafe, when I stopped by to try some of his chocolates – crafted from his French traditions and using the finest ingredients.
There are over 20 kinds of delightful ganache, praline and marzipan chocolates to choose from and you can buy them by the piece ($1.95), or in small ($8.95), medium ($18.95) and large ($33.95) boxes. My favourites are the pistachio gin ganache and coconut rum ganache, two fantastic boozy marriages that impart a little bit of that French joie de vivre as you devour them.
Coming up for Valentine’s Day they will have two special heart-themed chocolates as well as other love-themed treats like a red, white and pink trio of their famous macaroons, red and pink pate de fruits, and heart-shaped Beignets (traditional French fritters) with a chocolate dipping sauce, available on Valentine’s Day only.
Thierry, with its curvaceous walls made of rich, reclaimed palmwood and sumptuous dark chocolate marble countertops, is licensed and open late so you can stay to enjoy a spiked hot beverage or dessert wine with your chocolate treats.
1059 Alberni Street, 604-608-6870
The Thomas Haas Valentine’s collection box is available in three sizes and comes with a hand-crafted chocolate heart, airbrushed with velvet red cocoa butter and 24-carat gold dust, and filled with handmade chocolates and truffles on a hand crafted chocolate pedestal (Image: Thomas Haas)
When I asked one of the staff what makes Thomas Haas so special, she said it was his amazing energy and bright outlook. I meant the chocolate, not the man, but his intense positivity certainly translates into his incredible chocolates (if you’ve met him or seen him on TV, you know what I mean).
The most notable Valentine’s Day accomplishment: his whimsical Valentine’s collection box ($19 for small, $35 for medium and $49 for large), consisting of a hand-crafted chocolate heart, airbrushed with velvet red cocoa butter and 24 carat gold dust, filled with handmade chocolates and truffles on a hand crafted chocolate pedestal.
The rest of the Valentine’s collection is quite lovely too, with six truffle hearts to steal your heart, including a dark chocolate raspberry and dark chocolate salted caramel, a milk chocolate lemon hazelnut praline and milk chocolate marc de champagne, and a white chocolate passion fruit and white chocolate mango coconut. The milk chocolate marc de champagne truffle heart took top prize in my mind, with its intense champagne notes and smooth filling.
You can purchase Thomas Haas’ specialty truffles and chocolates in a small or medium red velvet heart, at $19 for 6 or $36 for 15.
2539 West Broadway, 604-736-1848
Xoxolat owner Hodie Rondeau, and some of the fabulous Xoxolat chocolates (Image: Darryl Humphrey, left, and Catherine Roscoe Barr, right)
Vivacious Xoxolat owner Hodie Rondeau is truly a passionate student of chocolate and is happy to educate people on what they don’t know about the delicious treat (Xoxolat’s popular Chocolate 101 workshops are only $15).
Xoxolat is the largest importer of international chocolates in Canada, specializing in single origin and estate chocolates, and also carries a wide range of their own confections (currently made off-site as their demand outgrew their preparation space), from bars (like the unusually amazing blue corn tortilla chips and lime, and west coast breakfast with maple-caramelized bacon and espresso) to over 30 flavours of truffles, pralines and caramels with seasonally-inspired features.
This time of year their seasonal features are all about love, with their super yummy heart-shaped, dark or white chocolate fleur de sel and caramel creations, to their delicious white or milk chocolate-shelled strawberry and champagne ganache numbers. The Valentine’s Day boxes come in a range of sizes from $15 for 9 to $65 for 48.
Rondeau is also known for her vast and ever-evolving collection of chocolate shoes, which range from $32 to $60 and, she playfully says, should be eaten so they stay a shoe as long as possible – kitten heel, mule, open-toe, sandal. I love it!
2391 Burrard Street, 604-733-2462